The deal was, I would teach Lynette about French wine, and she would teach me about life in Paris, while drinking said wine. It all seemed pretty simple. And it would have been—if wine and life were simple.
“What is this? It’s amazing,” Lynette said upon tasting Cabernet Franc for the first time. I began explaining about Chinon, but saw that, even though Lynette had been living in this wine capital for two years now, with her husband and two children, learning about the Loire Valley and the AOC system in one session would be too much.
So, we switched topics: our dreams. Because I travel often to France as a wine writer, I’d been introduced to Lynette through a mutual friend, and we were, essentially, having a blind friend date.
Does something about a bright bubbly wine inspire confession, I wondered?
Even as we enjoyed an earthy, light Poulsard from the Jura or a racy Burgundian Aligoté, she was scattered—still not absorbing the wine knowledge. On our fourth meeting, instead of nerding out about wine, we focused on a famous dish of veal brains on our table at Le Baratin in the 20th Arrondissement. Lynette still didn’t know what she wanted to do, only that she needed something apart from her family.
She dreamt of harnessing her creativity, launching her own business. “It could be a blog. Or food tours. Lifestyle catering?” she mused.
My dream, meanwhile, was moving to Paris. I returned to France at every possible opportunity, was becoming conversant in the language and increasingly, felt dismayed when boarding the flight back to New York.Lynette, also from New York, watched my infatuation grow, and became my cheerleader.
“It’s amazing living in Paris. The men! The fashion. The food. The … men!”
We were sitting at a bistro in her upper-crust neighborhood. Taking a drag of her Gauloises Blonde, Lynette exhaled, then sipped a Crémant d’Alsace. I opened my mouth to espouse the merits of affordable sparkling wine, but she wrinkled her brow and asked in a low voice: “Can you keep a secret?”
Does something about a bright bubbly wine inspire confession, I wondered? Lynette had fallen deeply in love with Paris, and out of love with her husband. While her budding affair with a younger man signaled the unraveling of her marriage, her confidence solidified our friendship. I saw, finally, that her confusion about life was not from aimlessness, but from an unhappy marriage.
This winter, I brought a bottle of savory Gamay rosé to Lynette’s apartment. Her children’s toys were strewn everywhere; dishes were piled in the sink. Her husband had moved out. She had given up trying to be a perfect wife and mother, and instead devoted her energies to launching an ice-cream cake business.
“The French love my ice cream gateau,” Lynette said. I’d never seen her so happy.
I’ve stopped trying to force-feed Lynette wine knowledge. Now, when we go out, I order whatever looks good, and we savor every sip without trying to have a seminar. But Lynette continues to encourage me to follow my wildest dreams.
“You have to move here,” she says every time I visit, “so you can teach me all about wine!”
And I tell her that she already knows the most vital thing: that wine is to be enjoyed, with good friends and deep conversation.